Lawyers and activists are calling on the Andrews government to enable the early release of some low risk prisoners to avoid them being impacted by any potential COVID-19 outbreaks in prison.
There is a case before the Supreme Court on behalf of a prisoner with multiple conditions and others who would be vulnerable to the virus. Lawyers for the prisoners are arguing that the state is breaching its duty of care. There is not currently any reported cases of COVID-19 within the system but there are fears an outbreak is imminent. Lawyers in Victoria have asked for early release of prisoners close to finishing their sentences, calling for temporary release of people with underlying health conditions and parole for prisoners convicted of low-level offences who pose a low risk to the community. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison suffer higher rates of chronic health issues than non-indigenous people and are therefore at much greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
New South Wales has released some prisoners and Britain and the United States have already taken action to reduce their prison population.
The union representing prison staff argued that it was safer to keep prisoners inside than expose them to increasingly uncertain futures outside. The Andrews government is reluctant to comprise and has stated that have current plans to release prisoners.